Monday, February 26, 2024

All Hands on Deck: Coronado Community Rallies to Support Schools Flooded in Storm

When the flood waters started rushing into downstairs classrooms at Coronado’s Village Elementary School on Monday morning, the teachers and staff jumped into action. They walked their students upstairs in a quick and coordinated effort to keep everyone safe.

“It happened very fast,” said Devon Roberts, who teaches first grade at Village Elementary. “It was the definition of a flash flood.”

The City of Coronado declared a state of emergency Monday evening, Jan. 22, after the winter storm dumped almost four inches of rain on the city, flooding streets, homes and businesses in addition to the schools. A news report from the local Fox TV station showed video of water flooding into the downstairs hallways and classrooms, often several inches deep.

A video from Fox5 showed flood water gushing into Village Elementary School.

In the midst of the flooding, Roberts says the teachers remained calm. The kids listened and followed directions. She credits the staff at Village for keeping cool in middle of a very unexpected situation.

“The kids were incredible, they were such great listeners, they looked to us and they trusted us,” said Roberts. “They followed protocol and instructions perfectly. I’m so proud of them.”

According to Emily Lacklen Foster, Communications Chair for Village Elementary PTO, the flood waters gushed into the kindergarten, first and second grade classrooms. The library, cafeteria and front office were also damaged.

“The breezeways had water running through them,” she said.

Staff members and volunteers didn’t hesitate. Foster said volunteers helped the librarian scramble to save library books on the lower shelves, and Principal Kuhns was seen walking around at dismissal with pants soaked to his knees after wading around to assess the damage. Vice Principal Tanya White was spotted cleaning bathrooms in high heels.

“It was all hands on deck,” said Foster.

Some parents said their children’s feet got wet from walking in the flood waters, but there were no injuries reported at the school. The upstairs classrooms in grades three through five were unaffected by the flood, and helped host the younger grades, according to a representative from the district.

Over at Coronado Middle School, teacher Linda Kullmann said she was surprised when waters quickly flowed into Granzer Hall and dumped into the quad.

She said the water was several inches deep in places, and that ceiling tiles started falling to the ground. After all the students were safe, Kullmann and other staff worked quickly to unplug all the electronics and used walkie talkies to coordinate efforts.

Granzer Hall at Coronado Middle School on Monday, Jan. 22, 2024.

She said the custodial staff jumped right in and started mopping the floor, and the employees at child nutrition services were “rockstars,” quickly boxing up lunches for the entire school.

“With their help, we were able to distribute lunches and juice boxes to every single student,” said Kullmann. “Everyone had a ‘can do’ attitude and we got through it.”

CMS quad on Monday, Jan. 22, 2024.

Kullmann said that Superintendent Karl Mueller was on site in minutes and the response from the City of Coronado was immediate.

“No one could have prepared us for this,” said Kullmann. “But everyone worked together, and I’m so proud to work at CMS. We all did what we could do.”

At Coronado High School, flood waters spilled into the lobby of the Coronado Performing Arts Center, and there was intrusion into some of the first-floor classrooms. Jennifer Landry, President of the Association for Coronado Teachers, watched the quad quickly fill with water.

“Looking down from the second floor to the quad, I realized that we might be in trouble,” said Landry. “I’ve lived here for 30 years, and I’ve never seen this much water come down so quickly.”

Landry said the students were respectful as they were quickly directed upstairs, and administration kept everyone informed on the PA system.

“It’s profound to see the way educators work together in times of crisis,” said Landry. “Our staff pulled together to help each other out.”

According to CHS Principal Karin Mellina, the students and staff did great, because the school had a plan and put it into action.

“There were no impacts on learning because our staff is incredible,” said Mellina. “They kept students on task and focused.”

Maria Simon, CUSD’s Public Information Officer, said the Maintenance and Operations Team, along with District Office staff, went immediately to the sites to help.

“The maintenance team had Stanley Steemer trucks extracting water the minute school was dismissed, working well into the night,” she said. “The district will bring in outside evaluators to ensure there is no mold or health concerns in any of the classrooms.”

Landry said that the biggest goal is to ensure that teachers and students are working in safe conditions. She said that wet floors and improperly dried carpets are not optimal, and could pose a health risk with mold. Both the California Department of Public Health and Center for Disease Control are clear that any visible water damage, mold or musty odor is unhealthy and should be immediately addressed, said Landry.

“Right now, there are open walls, damp carpets with furniture moved back onto them, and items in the classroom that are damaged or ruined,” she said.

Many of the younger students returned to their classrooms on Wednesday even though parent volunteers said that part of the drywall was missing and much of the downstairs space was clearly damaged. Yet most kids seemed unfazed, according to parent Colby Freer, whose children attend kindergarten and second grades.

Ms. Marston reads to her second grade class in the cafeteria.

“The teachers were there, working in organized chaos they best they could,” said Freer who volunteered at the school. “And all the kids I saw seemed happy and engaged. They were going with the flow.”

Devon Roberts said the community really rallied to help the teachers and staff get things cleaned up. She said people brought the teachers coffee and food, and community members showed up to squeegee the playground so the kids could go outside and play.

Parents Veronica Acuna and Monica Olivares de Smith sweep up the floors of a classroom at Village Elementary.

“The parent volunteers and the community really showed up for us in a way that’s incredible,” said Roberts.

Alexia Palacios Peters, CUSD School Board President, and Nancy Schrum mopped water off the playground so kids got get some much-needed outdoor time.

Spirits were high enough that teachers and kids even held a Taylor Swift dance party on the playground as soon as it was dried off.

“That’s what the kids will remember,” she said.

Silver Strand Elementary did not sustain any water damage, according to district administration

Christine Van Tuyl
Christine Van Tuyl
Christine was born and raised in Texas, but moved to Coronado with her family as a teen in 1993. Although initially horrified by surfers, flannels and skateboards, she ultimately grew to love all things So-Cal. A graduate of UCSD, Christine got her first writing job on the KUSI ten o’clock news while simultaneously juggling a reporter position at the San Diego Community News Group. She worked as a public relations professional, a book editor, real estate professional, and a freelance writer before eventually succumbing to motherhood in 2008.A decade later, Christine resurfaced to start the Island Girl Blog, a Coronado lifestyle blog. In addition, she writes a monthly page for Crown City Magazine. Christine loves hanging out with her husband, Ian, and their two spirited daughters, Holland and Marley, who attend Village Elementary and Coronado Middle School. When she’s not working, you’ll find her practicing yoga, spilling coffee at school drop off, meeting friends for sushi, or sailing the Bay with her family and English Bulldog, Moshi. Have news to share? Send tips, story ideas or letters to the editor to: [email protected]

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